Order the Mesquite-Smoked Beef Back Ribs at Rancho Lewis

Name: Rancho Lewis
Date: 4/14/23
Address: 1503 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Order: Beef Back Ribs “Half The Cow!” with cowboy slaw, charro beans, and a green chile baked potato (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$

Monk: John Lewis established his barbecue restaurant Lewis Barbecue in 2016 after having made the move as the well-regarded pitmaster at La Barbecue in Austin. As the story goes, John had received rapturous feedback from his food festival stops in Charleston over the years and finally made the leap east in 2015. Since opening his first restaurant in 2016, he has opened a second Lewis Barbecue location in Greenville in August 2022. This capped off a busy year that started with the opening of his upscale Tex-Mex Rancho Lewis in Charleston in April 2022. I think it’s fair to say that it’s worked out well for Lewis in the Holy City.

Rancho Lewis didn’t start out of nothing, however. What was then known as Juan Luis occupied a food stall in the Workshop food hall at the location where Rancho Lewis sits today. While I never made it to Workshop, I did force my family to make a quick detour a few years back to the Juan Luis food trailer that sat outside Lewis Barbecue and served some amazing breakfast tacos.

As soon as I opened the menu, I knew there was one item on the menu that was a must order as soon as I saw it. Behold: the beef back ribs, “half the cow!”

As stated on the menu, this item is a “whole full rack, slow cooked overnight in our mesquite pit.” According to our waitress that night, the $48.95 order comes with somewhere between 6-12 ribs. Thankfully I got on the lower end of that spectrum with 7 since I was the main eater of the dish at our table and was going to be at a music festival for the next two days without access to an over to reheat. The ribs themselves were fantastically tender, more so than my previous experience with beef back ribs. Perfectly smoked, the mesquite wood did not overpower the meat or the tangy sauce. I would for sure order these again with a large group next. The sides themselves were worth sharing as well.

Its pretty well established that green chiles are part of the larger pet project of John Lewis spreading the cuisine from his West Texas upbringing in El Paso. For the past 5 falls he’s even hosted an annual Hatch Chile Festival, with the 6th planned for sometime in October 2023. To that end, I was told by our waitress not to sleep on the green chile baked potato, and I can report back that she did not steer me wrong.

The other sides of cowboy slaw and charro beans were also executed to a high level, and I do have to mention their version of the paloma called “So Far So Bueno” which is a “big clay bowl filled with tequila, citrus juices, sparkling grapefruit.” Not the easiest to drink without spilling, but it added some fun to the meal. And while Rancho Lewis (and its pricing) certainly reflects an upscale Tex-Mex restaurant, we did get to enjoy the half-priced happy hour drink specials available on the patio shared with Edmund’s Oast before being seated.

Rancho Lewis takes the Juan Luis concept to another level and while its certainly more Tex-Mex than Texas barbecue, I can’t recommend it more highly. If you’ve got a Tex-Mex fan in your life (as I do with Mrs. Monk), you owe it to check out a different kind of cuisine at Rancho Lewis in Charleston.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Beef Back Ribs – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Charlotte Barbecue News from the Third Quarter of 2021

Monk: If there was an overarching theme for Charlotte barbecue the past three months, it would be expansion. In the second quarter roundup, I had hoped for new concepts and expansion. While we didn’t necessarily get new concepts (yet), we did get quite a bit in the way of expansion. Mac’s Speed Shop, Midwood Smokehouse, and Noble Smoke all announced new locations, (although only one of which is in Charlotte), and rumor has it another Charlotte barbecue joint may be expanding as well.

Not to mention, Phar Mill Brewing in Harrisburg expanded in a slightly different way. Pharr Mill BBQ is utilizing a Jon G’s barbecue pit and they typically serve some combination of brisket, ribs, and pork Thursdays through Saturdays.

July

7/3 Pharr Mill BBQ starts smoking on their Jon G’s barbecue pit at Phar Mill Brewery in Harrisburg

7/10 Noble Smoke celebrates 2 years in business

7/22 FS Food Group announces a Midwood Smokehouse location for Raleigh later his year

7/29 Smoke Show BBQ pivots to Tex-Mex barbecue

7/31 Charlotte-raised Bryan Furman returns to Charlotte and brings his Bryan Furman BBQ pop-up to Sweet Lew’s BBQ

August

8/9 In a nice nod to its employees, all Mac’s Speed Shop locations closed for the day to fight employee burnout

“Our people have been going way above and beyond to make our carry-out, eat-in and delivery business grow by leaps and bounds”… “I’ve never seen a team so dedicated to bringing fun and good food back into the lives of people pent-up by the pandemic.”

Mac’s President Shang Skipper

8/10 Sweet Lew’s Barbeque introduces the “Carolinas Frito Pie”: Carolina bbq hash, warm pimento cheese and jalapeños

8/14 Mac’s Speed Shop is expanding to Fort Mill

8/26 Secondhand Smoke takes over the Pete’s BBQ legacy in Fort Mill

8/27 Jon G’s gets the Axios Charlotte bump

8/30 The 91st Mallard Creek Barbecue is postponed yet another year

September

9/8 Indian Trail’s 100 Main Beef and Barbecue gets featured in Spectrum News for being both a barbecue restaurant and a country store

9/10 Barvecue, the wood-smoked plan-based barbecue company out of Cornelius, is rolling out to 12 colleges and universities and just signed a deal with Sprouts Farmers Market

9/9 Jon G’s Barbecue make this list of “Best New Barbecue Joints in the South” from Southern Living

9/16 Noble Smoke announced its second location will be a stall at the Optimist Hall food hall

9/16 More coverage on the stall from Axios Charlotte

9/24 K&N BBQ competes against Dan Good Que in Food Truck Rumble CLT

Checking In: Breakfast Tacos at Juan Luis

If you’re reading this, its unfortunately too late to grab a breakfast taco from the Juan Luis trailer in front of Lewis Barbecue in Charleston.

Before it changed over to “JLs” after August 2, Juan Luis served delicious breakfast tacos with homemade tortillas made in the trailer unlike anything I’ve had. Of course, Charlotte and NC doesn’t have the breakfast taco culture that Austin or the Southwest has.

I had both the migas (crispy corn tortillas strips, avocado, pico de Gallo, eggs, cheese) and the toro (green chile beef, pintos, onions, egg, cheese) on my one and only visit and these tacos were life-changing. Particularly the migas, which I still think about to this day.

After a quick refresh, JLs will serve green chile cheeseburgers, green chile cheese dogs, frozen custard sundaes and margaritas. I imagine it will be worth checking out.

The Juan Luis concept will be transferred to Rancho Lewis, which is coming soon to the former Workshop food hall at 1503 King St in Winter 2022. For me, it will be a must stop next time I’m in Charleston.

The Cheef (food truck) – Brevard, NC

Name: The Cheef
Order: Brisket wrap, sausage wrap (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: After a day hiking or tubing on the river in the mountains of NC, a wood smoked barbecue food trailer parked outside the local outfitter is quite a welcome site. On a recent trip to Brevard , The Cheef was that welcome site parked outside of Headwaters Outfitters on the North Fork French Broad River.

The Cheef serves Tex-Mex barbecue from a food truck that makes the rounds in the town of Brevard and nearby Rosman. I actually spotted it twice on Fourth of July weekend, once here and the very next day at The HUB Pisgah Tavern at the doorstep of the Pisgah National Forest.

Actually, “food truck” would be a little misleading, as the meat is smoked on a reverse flow offset Lang Smoker mounted in the bed of the heavy duty pickup truck that also hauls a food trailer. Based on Instagram posts, the menu seems to regularly consist of a variety of smoked meats including smoked pork, sausages, brisket, and chuck roast. Though I didn’t have it that day, chuck roast is smart as its a cheaper cut of beef than brisket that I can personally attest makes great tacos. Well played, The Cheef (or is it just Cheef?).

Other than the El Guapo (a pork taco topped with roasted tomatillo salsa, onions, and cilantro) or the loaded baked potato, the menu is largely made of smoked meats presented simply with either Texas toast or a large flour tortilla. I opted for brisket and smoked sausage at $13 and $6 respectively.

The brisket looked to be moist and perfectly smoked, and that was mostly the case. My only minor complaint was that it could have used a little more flavor, though that was ultimately achieved by pouring some of the sauce that came on the side over the brisket before folding it in the tortilla as a wrap. It proved to be a pretty satisfying mid-afternoon snack, even though it was a little pricey for what you get.

The smoked sausage was a little less successful for me, with the kielbasa-style sausage plenty smokey but not exactly what I was looking for in my order. Admittedly, I was hoping for more of a Texas-style link such as a the ever-present jalapeno cheddar. However, at $6 it was less than half the price of the brisket and offers a good beef alternative at a much lower price point.

A Tex-Mex barbecue truck is a bit of a rarity for North Carolina, much less in the mountains. Not to mention one smoking with a legit smoker such as a Lang. When in the Brevard area, definitely be on the look out for The Cheef while having a beer after your outdoor adventures.

Ratings:
Brisket – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 Hogs